Historians have launched an 11th-hour bid to save the earliest recorded photo album belonging to pioneering British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, which is in danger of leaving UK shores.


Picture, courtesy Department for Culture, Media & Sport

The UK government has placed a temporary export ban on ‘Signor 1857′ – an album containing 35 works by various photographers – saying it is at risk of leaving Britain if £121,250 needed to buy it cannot be found soon.

It is believed to be the earliest of eight albums Cameron owned before she took up photography herself – helping to shape the images she would go on to create.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said the album is of ‘outstanding significance for the study of 19th century photography’.

It believed to have been given to Cameron as a gift, by her artist friend George Frederic Watts.

Vaizey added: ‘I sincerely hope that a UK buyer can be found for the Signor 1857 Album.

‘It still holds many secrets and keeping it in the UK would allow further detailed study in the lead up to the bi-centenary of this incredibly talented photographer’s birth.’

The deadline to raise the funds is 8 July, but the government says this could be extended to 8 October if a ‘serious intention’ to purchase the album is made.

It is ‘an important example of how photographs were embedded within avant-garde art-making of the day,’ said the Department for Media, Culture & Sport and Arts Council England in a statement.

‘In addition, it is a pivotal piece of evidence in explaining how Cameron, a middle-aged woman with no previous experience of visual art-making, became one of the most celebrated photographers.

‘And it illustrates Cameron’s increasing interest in the relationship between the fine arts and photography’.

The rescue bid was first reported by the British photographic history blog last week.

Those interested in buying the album should contact the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Cultural Interest on 0845 300 6200.

  • George Swindells

    Why don’t all the photographic magazines get together to buy this and deposit it at the National Photographic Museum?

  • Stephen Ashton

    No chance of the National Gallery forking out, I suppose? Then we could all have a look at it.